The number of new filings for unemployment is slowly tapering off, but the state has hit a new record for people out of work. Overall, the jobless rate is about 10 times the level in early March.
More than 26,000 additional Tennesseans filed for unemployment benefits last week — even as many businesses have begun reopening.
In total, more than half a million residents have applied for assistance during the pandemic, and more than 310,000 are currently relying on that money.
According to the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, only three of Tennessee’s 95 counties had unemployment rates below 10% in April. Statewide, the rate topped its all-time high from 1983.
Sevier County reported the steepest jobless rate, with 29.5% of residents out of work. That’s up from just 3.5% in March.
And among the state’s largest cities, Nashville had the highest percentage of unemployed residents, at nearly 16%, compared to only 2.4% the month prior.
Meanwhile, many unemployed people are still waiting for their claims to be processed. The state department of labor has a backlog of tens of thousands of claims, many of which are more than three weeks old.
Chris Cannon, a spokesperson for the department, says it has hired hundreds to help answer questions and process claims. He says, the system isn’t “broken,” but rather “overloaded.”